During his first two seasons with the Green Bay Packers, Jayrone Elliott has been a pleasant surprise. Now, as he enters his third season with the team, he has a chance to make an even bigger impact.
Elliott, who signed with the Packers as an undrafted free agent, is another success story. The Packers kill it with rookie free agents and the outside linebacker from Toledo is another example of that.
During his first season with the Packers, he played mostly on special teams, but excelled in that role, notching 15 special teams tackles, which was second on the team that year. Then he had six in two playoff games during that same season. in 2015, Elliott had 11 special teams tackles in 14 games, so he has proven his penchant for that part of the game.
His ability on special teams is the biggest reason why Elliott has a very good chance to once again make the Packers’ 53-man roster in 2016. If he remains a core special-teams player, then his spot is safe.
Yet, Elliott has shown flashes at times on defense as well and that’s where the Packers have to be hoping to can take a step forward in 2016.
Last year, Elliott got off to a roaring start. He had an interception and a forced fumble against Seattle, followed by back-to-back games with a sack.
Unfortunately, Injuries slowed him down, but he notched another sack late in the season to finish with three and showed burst around the edge down the stretch. In the end, he was productive enough that Pro Football Focus rated him as Green Bay’s second-most productive edge rusher behind Julius Peppers.
PFF makes the point though that it was a bad sign that he was unable to beat out Mike Neal for snaps. But, that doesn’t appear to be an issue anymore since Neal remains unsigned. And in my opinion, Elliott is one of the biggest reasons why he will stay that way.
Elliott may need some work against the run, but to me, he was a more explosive pass rusher than Neal last season, who tallied 4.5 sacks despite playing a lot more snaps.
Neal is still solid against the run and he’s actually not a bad player, just at this point, I’d rather see Elliott get his snaps. Some of them will obviously go to Nick Perry and some possibly to an early-round draft pick, but I think it’s safe to assume Elliott has done enough to at least warrant consideration for snaps on the edge.
One thing that makes it a little more complicated is the move of Datone Jones to outside linebacker for pass-rushing situations. That’s another player for Elliott to compete with and of course, Clay Matthews is supposed to be back at outside linebacker this season, at least for what sounds like a majority of the time.
Yet, even with Peppers, Matthews, Perry and Jones rushing the passer at outside linebacker, Elliott could still have a role. You can never have enough good pass rushers and the third-year man from Toledo has flashed his potential before. Plus, I wouldn’t be shocked if Matthews still plays a few snaps inside and if Jones still sees some time with his hand in the ground, so there will be snaps available.
Elliott’s presence certainly isn’t going to prevent the Packers from drafting an edge rusher early in the draft and it shouldn’t. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a chance to play a greater role in 2016, because he absolutely does — it’s up to him to take advantage of it.